Monthly Archives: June 2016

Prince’s surprising list of heirs

 

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Okay, that’s not Prince but you’ll get the idea for this photo selection after reading the blog.

Decide to die without a will in place and you can expect a feeding frenzy of legitimate and wannabe heirs to show up after your demise with hopes of grabbing a share of your wealth. Don’t believe me? Then check out the list of Prince’s alleged heirs.

Before going there, I’ve written about dying without a will before. And, will continue to do so in the future for a couple of reasons: First, getting your financial ducks in a row is really important if you want the estate that you’ve created to be shared based upon your wishes. Which, BTW, won’t happen unless you do have a will in place. Second, to rest in peace.

Depending upon the source, somewhere in the neighborhood of 55 percent of us die without a will, or, intestate. Included in that figure is everyone from the uber-wealthy to those with limited funds and/or gifts they would like to pass on.

Back to Prince: He wasn’t the only internationally loved music-maker to leave this planet without a written plan showing how his treasures should be divvied up. Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix and Sonny Bono, for instance, all died without wills.

Prince’s death a few months ago, however, is the most recent and could wind up to be one of the most complicated. Nothing, however, has been formalized yet and getting it all sorted out could take years.

But there is a lesson in his dying intestate we can all learn from, as the list of people claiming to be heirs of this man who had no children is truly astounding.

According to a recent VanityFair.com story, People magazine reported 29 people have stepped up with palms open in hopes of getting a piece of Prince’s  estate estimated to be worth  somewhere between $100 million and $300 million.

Here are some of Prince’s alleged heirs, according to People:

  • “Five alleged half siblings
  • One alleged half niece
  • One alleged half grandniece
  • Three alleged long-lost half sisters
  • One alleged long-lost half brother
  • Eight alleged distant cousins
  • One alleged illegitimate son
  • One alleged adopted son
  • One alleged (but unspecified) relative
  • One Minnesota resident who suggests that the absence of a will means he could be an heir
  • Four non-relatives alleging Prince owed them between $46,000 and $750 million in business expenses
  • One non-relative alleging that, according to People, “he had a verbal agreement with Prince that gave him complete ownership of the artist’s musical catalog and vast vault of unreleased recordings”—maintaining that he is owed $1 billion”

 

So do yourself a favor: Have a will drawn up. You’ll be glad you did. Your heirs might not be, or, care for what’s in it. But hey, it’s your life and your wishes that count the most.

 

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POCKETBOOK: Week ending June 25, 2016

  • IMG_0204 •Feelings and the Brexit vote

    Burning down the neighborhood won’t bring prosperity or end the oppression, but it sure feels good for once to just do something, to hold up your middle finger to the rich man who shipped your last job to China and to strike back at the fresh-off-the-boat immigrant who will compete with your for your next job,” Rex Nutting wrote in an “Opinion: Brexits’ message: It feels good to tell them all to bugger off” at MarketWatch.com, June 24, 2016.

The tricky thing about  emotional and/or angry voting is the possible set of conseequences that  follow  no one ever seems to consider until afterward when  all is said and done.  There’s a lesson in that for all of us.

  • Market Quick Glance

Yikes! Jaws were  dropping when equity markets closed on Friday. Some of that fall, along with the high trading volume, was expected as  Russell  reconstituted  the portfolio holdings of their indices. That’s a once a year thing  that impacts trading volume and prices. This year, however, no one really noticed thanks to the Brexit vote.

That said, the bulk of the DJIA’s fall—and all the other equity 20 indices that Bloomberg follows—as you already know by now was thanks to how  UK voters surprised the world with their vote to leave the Economic Union.

If you’ve been rattled by it, chill. Market downturns can be expected going forward  but it’s unlikely  drops like that on the DJIA will become a  regular event even as the world warms to the UK’s new reality. Unless of course, the world goes mad. Or, we have problems here at home and our US economy fails to grow, inflation gets out of hand, or social, economic or political problems hit a high pitch. All of which could happen but hopefully not.

Back to market returns, talking heads are telling  investors to get used to accepting the idea that their  long-term average annual investment returns will be in the neighborhood of  4%. At that rate it will take 18 years for money to double. Or, $10,000 to grow to $20,000.

As for now, below are how the major indices closed the week. Please read through each as I have included how they have changed from last week’s close on June 18th to this week’s on June 25. Data is  according to Bloomberg.com.

-Indices:

-Dow Jones +1.22% YTD only lost about 1.4 % YTD even though it fell over 610 points on Friday.

  • 1yr Rtn -0.43% moved into minusland from last week’s up 0.75%

-S&P 500 +0.78% lost about 1.6 % from the previous week’s YTDclose of +2.42%

  • 1yr Rtn -0.92% and now in minus territory from last week’s close of +0.34%

NASDAQ -5.33% YTD lost about 2% from last week’s YTD close of -3.48%

  • 1yr Rtn -6.09 % down another 2%

Russell 2000 +0.03% YTD down over 1.4 % from last week’s +1.47% YTD return

1yr Rtn -10.61% and it lost about 1.1 percent more adding to  last week’s-9.56%

-Mutual funds

Note: Lipper reports its weekly Lipper Performance Report on mutual funds based upon Thursday’s closing prices. This week, the market’s swan dive happened on Friday. So expect the results below to be sunnier than they would be if Friday’s closing prices were included in the calculations.

So, through Thursday, June 23, 2016 the average U.S.Diversified Equity Fund was up 2.84 percent, according to Lipper.

Equity Leveraged Funds enjoyed the biggest gains during the week closing  up 12.53 percent on average. They were followed by the usual suspects—although their order has changed: Mid-Cap Value Funds were up on average 7.44 percent; Small-Cap Value Funds up 7.12 percent; and Equity Income Funds up on average 6.86 percent.

Precious Metals Equity Funds continue to score up on average 83.79 percent—a tad less than the previous week.

Worth noting is that the average y-t-d  return for the 2,304 funds included under the Sector Fund heading is up 9.36 percent as many fund types had y-t-d returns of between 11 and 17 percent.

Find out the all the particulars at www.allaboutfunds.com .

Visit www.allaboutfunds.com for weekly updates to see how equity and fixed-income funds have rewarded investors over the short-and long-term, based upon Lipper data. Short-term meaning weekly and monthly performance returns; longer-term includes quarterly, year-to-date, 1-yr, 2-yr, 3-yr and 5-yr returns.

Lipper’s weekly performance figures for stock and fixed-income funds are at www.allaboutfunds.com in the left column on the home page.

 •A word on gold

Lots of folks look to gold when markets are in turmoil. Decide that gold is something you’d like to have in your portfolio and deciding what to buy —individual gold stocks, or an ETF or a precious metals fund of one sort or another —-could be your biggest challenge. All have pluses and minuses.

I ran across this piece of advice last week a Luke Burgess’s Energy and Capital newsletter: “The #1 reason you should not own gold or gold stocks is if you believe in higher returns from another source.”

His  point is well taken. If you think gold is going to increase in value 10, 20, 30 or more percent that’s one thing.

But if you’re looking for around a 5 percent return, there are a number of high-quality dividend paying stocks that will fill that bill.

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Got market stress? Color

If the European Union was an egg, its  once smooth—yet sometimes pimpled–outer shell has just developed a crack. And it’s a crack that’s likely to get larger and result in a number of consequences both good and not so hot in the future.

One goodie, thanks to the currency exchange rates, you’ll get more for bang for $1 than you would have a few weeks ago. For the currency conscious, that makes traveling to England and countries within the European Union value destinations.

On the down side, the markets are in turmoil. Volatility is the mantra of the day and will likely be so for some time. That’s a big deal especially where investment money is concerned. Why? Because when what’s considered as a hugely stable country decides to change course it rattles the world. So, the UKs move to exist the EU, for whatever reasons and whatever the outcomes, has led to instability. And instability doesn’t calm people’s nerves it aggravates them.

As an aside, I’ve never been a fan of the European Union. To my way of thinking, doing anything just for the money may pay off in the short run but not really over time. And, the EU was created with the notion and promise of huge economic possibilities for all countries joining it.

Trouble is, the promise of money clouds everyone’s thinking. That includes those in power with plenty of it, those in the middle hoping to increase their station in life and the dreams of those on the bottom rung of life’s socio-economic ladder.

But not to worry, dear readers, I’ve found a wonderful personal stress eliminator for all of this socio-economic madness: Coloring.

I’d heard that adult coloring had become a big deal. In addition to it making book publishers and coloring book authors richer, the human rewards gotten by sitting down for an hour  and simply coloring were supposed to be remarkably healthy for both mind and spirit. So I tried it and it is.

The paisley print at the top is my first go at coloring. The Society of the Four Arts Library in Palm Beach, like other libraries across the country, offers an adult coloring class once a week and supplies all the necessary coloring tools in an environment that is as delightfully relaxing as is  the activity.

In addition to meeting like-minded colorists, (you’ll see a few in the photos above), coloring gives your brain a chance to focus on one thing.

No need for multi-tasking here. Multi-everything or anything is out.   Consequently, when you spend a little time coloring  your stress level with go down. Plus, you might save a few bucks cutting down on visits to the shrink.

How so, you ask?

Turns out psychiatrists have known the benefits of coloring for decades. Psychologist Carl Jung, for one, was big on getting his patients to color mandalas.

I left my first coloring session with some kind of mind high I’d never experienced before. Maybe that had to do with my having to stay inside the lines when I colored. That’s not exactly my style.

But this mind high is  better than the one I get after walking on the beach in the early morning or listening to classical music. It’s amazing and  carries me through the day.

So do try a coloring session somewhere. I’m betting that you’ll be glad you did.

Given that this is a money-based blog, I’d be remiss if I didn’t report a few money-coloring tidbits. In short, the trend has made publishing houses such as Penguin Random House, Dover, Hachette Pratique and Quarto Publishing, to name a few, much richer.

And then there’s the “queen of coloring”, Johanna Basford. Her coloring books have sold millions: Color her green.

 

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POCKETBOOK: Week ending June 18, 2016

  • IMG_0204
  • 7 days worth of gun deaths

In only seven short days after the gun massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, 207 more individuals have died in gun-related deaths, according to CBS News.

 

  • Market Quick Glance

-Indices:

If you heard a “thud” at the close of business on Friday from Wall Street it was because  the major indices listed below  all closed the week down. Year-to-date gains of the four indices that follow  were stripped of between 1 and 1.5 percent of their returns from the previous week, and, lost roughly 1.5 to 3 percent of their 1-year total returns, according to Bloomberg.

Bottom line: The markets remain on shaky ground for a whole host of good reasons. The primary one? The economy. Then there’s the job thing, the gargantuan disparity in incomes between the corporate haves and worker bee have-nots, the state of economies around the world, war worries, concerns about rising debt levels…shall I continue?

Below are the year-to-date performance figures for the major indices through June 17, 2016, according to Bloomberg. To provide a longer performance perspective, 1-year returns have been added.

-Dow Jones +2.82% YTD

1yr Rtn +0.75%

-S&P 500 +2.42%YTD

1yr Rtn +.34%

NASDAQ -3.48% YTD

1yr Rtn 4.92 %

Russell 2000 +1.47% YTD

1yr Rtn -9.56%

 

-Mutual funds

Through Thursday, June 16, 2016 the average U.S.Diversified Equity Fund was up less than 1 percent to end the week up 0.82 percent, according to Lipper. That represents a loss of nearly 3 percent in seven days.

Biggest downward spirals went to Equity Leverage Funds. Last week this group had an average y-t-d performance of 13 percent but that has been shaved in half. The average fund under this heading was up 6.57 percent.

Average plus-side returns of over 4 percent were found in Mid-Cap Value Funds (last week their average return was 7.80 percent); Small-Cap Value Funds; and Equity Income Funds.

Under the Sector Funds umbrella, Precious Metals Equity Funds continue to be the top performers. Their average y-t-d return was 83.83 percent at the close of business on Thursday. That’s down 5 percent from the previous week’s close of 88.89 percent.

Visit www.allaboutfunds.com for weekly updates to see how equity and fixed-income funds have rewarded investors over the short-and long-term, based upon Lipper data. Short-term meaning weekly and monthly performance returns; longer-term includes quarterly, year-to-date, 1-yr, 2-yr, 3-yr and 5-yr returns.

Lipper’s weekly performance figures for stock and fixed-income funds are at www.allaboutfunds.com in the left column on the home page.

  • Got cash?

No matter what anyone tells you, Cash is King. Always has been. Always will be.

I’ve always been a big proponent of telling my girlfriends—and anyone else who will listen—to keep a stash of cash in a spot that only they know of. And, is quick and easy for them to get their hands on.

My advice is usually met with a furrowed brow and the question, “Aren’t you supposed to keep your money in the bank or invested?”

My response is, “Nope. Not until you’ve already got a hefty stash at hand ready for those who-ever-knew moments.”

How much cash in your stash depends upon your lifestyle, size of family, station in life, etc., etc.

But one ideal rule of thumb would be to have six months worth of living expenses available.

Okay. Okay. I can hear your jaws drop. Most people don’t have enough money to cover a $400 emergency, come up with thousands for moving expenses , an emergency trip to the dentist yet alone the thousands of dollars necessary to build a 6-month sized war chest. But it’s a good goal.

Time flies particularly when money is tight. Or someone losses a job. Or an accident of any sort happens.

On that same Cash is King note, mutual fund and ETF investors have been cashing in on their investments lately.

From Thomson Reuters comes this data report for the week ending June 15, 2016: “Thomson Reuters Lipper’s fund macro-groups (including both mutual funds and exchange-traded funds [ETFs]) suffered net outflows of $19.1 billion for the fund-flows week ended Wednesday, June 15. This number marked the largest overall weekly net outflows since the week ended April 20, when U.S. funds saw over $32 billion leave…. Money market funds (-$13.6 billion) had the largest net outflows, while equity funds (-$3.4 billion) and taxable bond funds (-$3.1 billion) also contributed significantly to the total negative flows…”

Although I can’t tell you where that money is going, I can tell you that there is one fund type that is picking up inflows: municipal bond funds. That makes sense as the tax advantages of muni bond funds is targeted at  higher income individuals. Inflows into them last week totaled $904 million representing “the thirty-seventh consecutive week of net inflows for municipal bond funds” according to that report.

No matter where you stand on the income ladder, do me a favor and build yourself up a nice cash stash. You’ll be glad you did.

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POCKETBOOK: Week ending June 11, 2016

IMG_0204

  • An email BEWARE

The other day I received a “Security Update Notification” email  from Citibank. It read in part: “It has come to our attention that your CitiBank account information needs to be updated as part of our continuing commitment to protect your account and to reduce the instance of fraud on our website. If you could please take 5-10 minutes out of your online banking experience and update your personal records you will not run into any future problems with the online service..”

Trouble is, I don’t bank with Citibank.

Worse yet, I had also received a similar email notice from Chase a few weeks before.  I don’t bank with them either.

I did call Chase to see what the email was all about and the bank  representative said she  knew nothing about the email. She suggested I delete the message. I did.

My suggestion is that you do the same with ANY emails you get that request account information or the updating of information. Particularly when they come from companies you don’t do business with, or, have an established relationship with. Even banks. Especially banks.

As we all have sadly learned, there are lots of talented online crooks around. So just because someone asks for information, doesn’t mean you have to give it.

 

•Market Quick Glance

-Indices:

 

Below are the year-to-date performance figures for the major indices through June 10, 2016, according to Bloomberg. To provide a longer performance perspective, 1-year returns have been added.

 

-Dow Jones +3.89% YTD

1yr Rtn +2.47% .

-S&P 500 +3.62%YTD

1yr Rtn +2.30%

NASDAQ -0.60% YTD

1yr Rtn -1.80 %

Russell 2000 +3.15% YTD

1yr Rtn -6.62%

 

-Mutual funds

 

Through Thursday, June 9, 2016 the average U.S. Diversified Equity Fund jumped up more than 1/2 of 1 percent to end the week up + 3.26 percent, according to Lipper.

Again, Equity Leverage Funds ruled with a y-t-d average performance of 13 percent (last week that category had an average return of 7.40 percent). Behind it were Mid-Cap Value Funds with an average return of 7.80 percent followed by Small-Cap Value Funds at 7.68 percent.

 

Sector Funds have a history out outperforming various fund types—-particularly Index Funds—-when the stock markets aren’t really making sense. Now is one of those times. As a result, under the Sector Equity Funds heading you will find 10 various types of Sector Funds with year-to-date average performances of over 10 percent. The richest of them are Precious Metals Equity Funds. They gained more than 25 percent in five business days to end  the y-t-d performance up 88.89 percent.

 

 

Worth noting: Of the 25 largest equity funds, only 5 had y-t-d performance averages  over +5 percent.

 

Find out the details at www.allaboutfunds.com .

 

Visit www.allaboutfunds.com for weekly updates to see how equity and fixed-income funds have rewarded investors over the short-and long-term, based upon Lipper data. Short-term meaning weekly and monthly performance returns; longer-term includes quarterly, year-to-date, 1-yr, 2-yr, 3-yr and 5-yr returns.

 

Lipper’s weekly performance figures for stock and fixed-income funds are at www.allaboutfunds.com in the left column on the home page.

 

  • They say it’s a stock pickers market

Lots of talks lately about which investment product performs best: Index fund(s) or individual stock picking.

 

Index funds come with lots of appeal including low costs, diversification and performance. And if you’ve been around for a while you will recall that there  have been a number of years when passively managed index funds have outperformed actively managed stock picker funds.

 

Now some experts think it’s funds managed by active stock picking managers that will outperform basic index funds. Two of them are Louis Navellier and Brad Zigler.

 

From last week’s Louis Navellier’s InvestorPlace.com email comes this: “Had you invested in an S&P 500 index fund at the beginning of 2000 when it was at 1,469 you’d be up a TOTAL of 32% as of the end of 2015. Put another way, if you put $100,000 in an S&P 500 index fund at the beginning of 2000, your account would have grown to just $132,000 fifteen years later……Now $32,000 is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s only a compounded annual gain of 1.75% over 15 long years.”

Navellier, who of course, is promoting his own investment style and management company  made mention of how $100,000 invested with him on January 1, 2002 would have grown to $546,657 by the end of 2015. That’s a 12.9% average gain per year.

Brad Zigler, author of Seeking Alpha’s “The Market’s Measure” column, wrote about the opportunities for skilled stock pickers that exist today. His thinking is based on two market indicators that are behaving in a fashion that are kinda sorta out of synch: Alpha and the CBOE S&P 500 Correlation Index (KCJ).

 

Zigler writes that the KCJ has been on a downward trend since February and that a low correlation between it and Alpha can mean investment opportunities for stock pickers who know what they are doing. He also pointed out there was no certainty in how long that correlation would last.

 

But no matter how the market looks,  smart guys like Zigler and Navellier will be the first to tell you that investing in the stock market always comes with risks. And, that there are no performance guarantees going forward  no matter what the score has been in the past.

 

 

 

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Not-so-free free toilets and water index on the rise

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A couple of things happened when I took advantage of the City of West Palm Beach’s High Efficiency Toilet Voucher Program. First, I learned that there’s more to a getting a free toilet than getting a free toilet. And second, who knew there was a water index and that it’s been on the rise for years.

I’ll begin with the toilet.

Call it a throne or crapper; WC or potty there’s no denying that toilets play a major part in everyone’s life every day of their lives. There aren’t too many man-made items that service the needs of every human being as much as a toilet.

That said, a toilet wouldn’t be a toilet if it weren’t for water. And the primary reason for this $125 free toilet voucher for qualifying WPB residents is to promote water conservation.

Incase you’ve had your head in the sand with respect to conserving water, there is no denying that that  liquid is vitally important to each of our individual lives and life on the planet Earth. Even though a quick glance of the globe shows water water nearly everywhere, right now finding a drop of it to drink is a challenge in a number of places on our planet.

According to a recent email from Energy and Capital, “Scientists estimate the total mass of the world’s water at 1.4 quintillion metric tonnes. But less than 1% of that is suitable for drinking.”

But I’ve gotten ahead of myself. Let me go back to toilets.

Who knew toilet shopping was as much art as it is a science? Or, that the size of seat has to fit the size of the space; that a new toilet has to fit the footprint of the one it’s replacing; and that there are decisions to make regarding price, brand, manner of flush, etc. etc. And that 125 bucks may buy a toilet but not a super-duper heated-seat wash-bottom computer operated one.

Then there are the costs of getting the toilet from Home Depot (which was the only place this free-toilet voucher could be used) home, getting it inside the house and up the stairs, the old toilet(s) removed, taken away and then the new one(s) put in place and secured by a plumber.

In the end, my free toilets (I got two) wound up costing me about $450. It would have been more had I decided to fancy-up my throne pick. But I didn’t.

Bigger, however, and more important for investors than my toilet tale, was discovering that there was a Dow Jones U.S. Water Index (DJUSWU). I came across it while researching water, toilets, etc., don’t ask how, and had no idea there was such a thing. Or that its performance was has been hard to top.

On Thursday, June 9, 2016, the DJUSWU index closed at 1797.48. Let’s call it 1800. That close is three times what it was in 2008, when it was around 600, or, in 2001 when the index was around 100.

I haven’t been able to find an  ETF representing only  that index, but a few weeks ago The Motley Fool published a piece that focused on investing in water stocks.

Two mentioned in the piece were American Water Works (AWK) with a 1-yr total return of 42.6 percent and 5-yr total return of 191 percent, and, Aqua America (WTR) with a 1-yr total return of 26.8 percent and 5-yr total return of 106 percent.

The S&P 500 over both of those same two time periods was 0.7 percent and 71.6 percent respectively, according to that same source.

No doubt about it, those two water stocks and the water index have had an  incredible run. There’s also no doubt about it that water is one of life’s necessities and to date, there is no substitute for it.

With that in mind, don’t flush the notion of some kind of water investment down the drain before you take the time to jump in and  research it.

The Motley Fool story is at:

http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2015/04/18/3-best-stocks-to-invest-in-water.aspxoo

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POCKETBOOK: Week ending June 4, 2016

  • IMG_0204

  • Welcome to June

I’m guessing investors can expect the same from the equity markets this summer as they can from their summer travel experiences: No relief from worries about the direction of the stock markets or from the weather and the storms typically accompanying them.

Then again, worrying about things to come has never paid much of a dividend. Enjoying the moment, however, certainly has.

  • Market Quick Glance

-Indices:

Below are the year-to-date performance figures for the major indices through June 3, 2016, according to Bloomberg. To provide a longer performance perspective, 1-year returns have been added.

The Russell 2000 was the only index of the four below that enjoyed any noteworthy upward change—its y-t-d return gained about 1.5%.

-Dow Jones +3.49% YTD

1yr Rtn +2.44%

-S&P 500 +3.71%YTD

1yr Rtn +2.51%

NASDAQ -0.66% YTD

1yr Rtn -1.17%

Russell 2000 +3.12 YTD

1yr Rtn -6.31%

-Mutual funds

Through Thursday, June 2, 2016 the average U.S.Diversified Equity Fund jumped into positive territory ending the week up 2.65 percent, according to Lipper. Last week, if you remember, the average year-to-date returns of this group of 815 funds was down 1.29 percent.

It was Equity Leverage Funds that ruled the performance roost as the y-t-d performance of the 200 funds in that category had an average return of 7.40 percent. Behind it  Mid-Cap Value Funds with their average return of 6.45 percent followed by Small-Cap Value Funds at 6.45 percent.

Precious Metals Equity Funds are still rewarding their shareholders as the average return of this group was up 63.83 percent. Those rewards, however, just aren’t as much as they had been. Three weeks ago, (May 19), the average return of funds in this group was 75.64 percent. Now the return is 11.8 percent lower that the one reported on May 19.

One more thing: That 3-year average return of U.S.Diversifed Equity funds pointed out  in last week’s POCKETBOOK  of over 9 percent has shriveled  22 basis points to 8.80 percent.

I mention that only because investors need to look beyond current returns and back a few years to get a real sense of what’s happening in the market regarding the direction of equities.

It’s still an iffy market with recession worries that aren’t going away.

Visit www.allaboutfunds.com for weekly updates to see how equity and fixed-income funds have rewarded investors over the short-and long-term, based upon Lipper data. Short-term meaning weekly and monthly performance returns; longer-term includes quarterly, year-to-date, 1-yr, 2-yr, 3-yr and 5-yr returns.

Lipper’s weekly performance figures for stock and fixed-income funds are at www.allaboutfunds.com in the left column on the home page.

  • BMOs July outlook

I know, it’s still June but BMO likes to keep on top of things. And, in the BMO Wealth Management  June 2 report titled “July 2016 Outlook for Financial Markets” , its Summary by Jack A. Ablin,  BMOs Chief Investment Officer, is worth sharing.

Here’s the Summary:

“•Temp jobs are the first to go in a downturn. The sector has shed 27,400 jobs since December, reversing a five-year trend that saw it grow five times faster than overall employment.

“•Businesses are awash in more than $1.8 trillion of cash –and the 25 largest companies control more than half of the hoard. While this corporate “one percent” is up to its armpits in cash, the bottom 99 percent is swimming in debt.

“•What’s bothering the corner office? Consumers are confident, spending is strong and interest rates are low, yet companies aren’t spending.

“•Despite becoming an increasingly distant memory with every passing year, the housing bust and financial crisis inflicted lasting scars on American households.

“•Conviction and complacency are running hot, setting investors up for a surprise. “